Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Long March Home

A million people gather blocks away at City Hall, where soon I'll join them with friends and strangers. They'll wear rainbow shirts and leis and colorful clothes, and drink drinks, and listen to music, and nibble fried meat on a stick. Corporations will ply us with brochures, while we wave at celebrities in convertible cars. But it wasn't always that way.

The Supreme Court doesn't dictate whether we're worthy, but did give us cause for celebration, at least for those who want to marry. It's enormous, overwhelming, victorious, jubilant and it's LGBT pride. No, the message hasn't been lost, despite the local controversies.

Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day 1970
70s hunk at the Central Park rally
Christopher Street Parade at Central Park, 1970
San Francisco Gay Freedoms Day, 1974
I spent last night in between the parties and street marches, wondering what the early ones were like For my sequel to Every Time I Think of You, I 've been researching the specifics of the New York early 1980s Pride marches.  My first one was in 1988, and I marched with ACT UP for the next four years of my time there.

What would it be like for Reid and Everett to see such a celebration for the first time?
Fortunately, review books often come my way at work. Among the treasures is Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade, with photographs by Hank O'Neal, provides fascinating visual document of those early days (with captions by no less than Allen Ginsberg!) The cut-off shorts, the clone 'staches, the knee socks, the drag queens - it's all fabulous.

San Francisco's marches and celebrations are equally festive. I've marched with different groups, mostly rode a bike, but sadly, the Mikes on Bikes contingent has not been happening for the past few years. So instead, it's a relaxed brunch with a herd of pals and new friends, then a casual foray through the masses at nearby Civic Center, my neighborhood, where once again, as wedding ceremonies have been held through the weekend, history is taking place only blocks from my home.

It's easy to take it for granted, but the legacy is pretty amazing. There are plenty of films of San Francisco's via the GLBT Historical Society on YouTube.

SF Gay Freedom Day, 1974
But one short film shared by a Facebook friend made me smile.

Here is a link to a short black and white film, less than a minute long, of the first New York City Christopher Street Gay Freedom March in 1970. The parade marched uptown from Greenwich village to a "happening" event in Central Park. (It's on Google docs and I can't figure out how to embed it. For more New York and San Francisco films of Gay Freedom Days, visit YouTube). The first, but definitely not the last. 

And despite our hundreds of such celebrations taking place across America, in other countries (despite 13 having already approved gay marriage equality), they still struggle. 

Only days ago, in St. Petersburg, Russia, gay marchers were assaulted by mobs and arrested.

So while I enjoy the convenience of having a momentous event almost outside my door, for those who cannot, get outside, come outside, come out, and continue to make history.

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